Board but never boring

Anna Louise Batchelor - 02 December 2013

Soil Association organic logoLast week I attended the 'away day' of the Soil Association Standards Board. As a newly appointed board member a two-day meeting loomed large on my calendar, nearly as large as the parcel of papers I received to read in advance. Armed with papers and PJ’s I travelled to Stroud, Gloucestershire to join the board at Hawkwood College.

The agenda for the two day meeting was packed; a Standards Board business meeting followed by several sessions outlining future work and future directions for the Soil Association. Now, I’m bound by a confidentiality agreement that means I can’t share the detail of our discussions (and we all know the devil is in the detail) however what I do want to share is my enthusiasm for standards!

It’s funny how most people assume that standards = boredom. I recently met a Soil Association licensee at the swimming pool who proclaimed standards work to be dry (no pun intended) and was a little bemused at my enthusiasm. This got me thinking, if a licensee who tirelessly works to bring his products up to the highest level of UK organic certification, with Soil Association Certification Standards, what must the world ‘outside’ think!?

The communication of Soil Association standards being above the EU organic baseline was a common theme in the Board’s discussions. More specifically how do we communicate that difference to consumers? In my experience of organic retail consumers struggle with ‘ethical’ purchasing choices. Overwhelmed with logos and promises on packs, people need to know who to turn to and why. For me that’s where the Soil Association logo has always come in. It’s a logo with a legal basis and then the highest and most exacting UK organic standards.

Although I’m only 6 months into my Standards Board term I have already learnt so much about Soil Association standards and their exacting detail. For many licencees the Soil Association logo on-pack is the Holy Grail because of the rigorous inspections regimes, the holistic approach to organic and because of the gravitas the Soil Association logo brings within the organic movement.

With over 70% of organic products in Britain carrying the Soil Association logo, the march for consumer awareness is on. It’s a journey that starts with valuing the exacting standards the Soil Association places on its licensees, and in turn their hard work to produce organic products to the highest UK organic standards.

To find out more about the work of Soil Association Certification and to read the inspiring stories of licensees have a look here -

Anna Louise Batchelor is an environmental scientist working as a food consultant in the organic sector. She applies her skills and experience to the UK's organic certification system as a member of the Soils Association Standards board.

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John Watson
03 December 2013 13:18

Excellent behind the scenes piece, takes away some of the mistry of how SA standards managed. Thank you

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